Frank Usher leaves the Feast



Well I knew it was never ever going to be simple and I always try and remain on guard and vigilant in general for those spanners that appear regularly on the horizon.

This one I saw coming for quite a while but hoped it would fall short or miss. In the end I decided I couldn’t ignore it and decided to catch it as I knew exactly where it was heading.

Backstage with Frank

Backstage with Frank

In 2011, on the Fishheads tour Foss, Frank and I had discussed the writing of the new album and I really wanted the 3 of us to form the core of the project with the eventual aim of touring in the format again.Using what we had learned about the deconstruction and simplification of songs, a more purist approach to writing where the studio arrangements are added to embellish rather than as basic building blocks was put forward. Everyone was in agreement on the approach and we intended to start assembling basic ideas to work on and around in early 2012. The year started to wear out and weeks drifted into months. We’d spent a long time over the last couple of years together and the break at first was welcomed. The writing sessions however were very thin on the ground and there wasn’t much impetus around. I needed to write an album. I decided to bring in Steve Vantsis, co writer of “13th Star” who I’d met up with again during the Fishheads tour. He knew I needed to write new material and we got together in the late Summer to put our heads together. It worked and we re-established a good writing relationship which threw up around 7 ideas in the first 2 meetings. Foss was also involved with Steve and we were dealing with the “High Wood” together when Steve was down South. Frank had been at the studio only a couple of times as he was so heavily involved with the “Border Boogie Band” album, other session work and writing his solo album as well as helping build a studio in Galashiels and other demands. We were missing much needed guitar input.

The Leamington gigs with attendant rehearsals, although a great success, ate into the album writing and I realised I was well behind schedule requiring more recording postponements and a re think of my approach.Frank had elected to take over as sole stage guitarist at the beginning of the year and had dealt with it brilliantly. In the rehearsals for Leamington that was to put him under immense pressure. He was happy to continue but admitted to preferring a “foil”. We discussed the second guitarist position and Frank commented that his all time favourite was Robin Boult and that he would love to work with him again. He knew I needed another guitarist involved with the writing sessions if I was to forward the album as Frank admitted to his own nonavailabilities in the coming months. Although Steve is great with ideas on guitar and we had more than the skeletons of material we both knew we needed a guitarist to write with to add to the process.  As Robin was coming to the convention I decided to ask the question regarding joining us for writing as the thought of having Frank and Robin together on the tour and album was an exciting prospect.Everyone including Frank liked the idea and the plan was set in motion.DSC_5519

Robin came up with Steve before Christmas and as hoped for provided the missing element we needed on the writing sessions.We decided to reconvene in January and bring all the elements together. I had hoped Frank would have been with us in December but holidays and other commitments came into play. We had only spoken a couple of times since Leamington and were out of touch.There was a sense of drifting.

Before I went to Karlsruhe this month I called Frank in for a discussion on my ideas which involved further writing sessions in March and April with pre production and tour rehearsals into May, the UK tour with the band that I wanted to record the album with in June throughout the Summer before the main European tour in September. I needed to get his take on it all and if he wanted to be involved as I wasn’t sure as to what he wanted to do  He admitted he couldn’t commit and was resigning from the band. Despite having an inkling something was coming it still took me by surprise. I spent over an hour trying to talk him round but he had made up his mind. We agreed to leave it until I came back from Germany and when Steve and Robin were up for the next writing session and discuss it again then.I still hoped he would reconsider. The Durlach visit was clouded at the prospect of replacing Frank.541333_4841583757565_1942850118_n

On my return I called him but he had made his decision. He had talked with Yatta and Shaun who both had tried to change his mind but he was adamant.He had too much on this year that he wanted to do. Everyone to a man was disappointed, none more so than me. At the time Robin had not made up his mind on the touring aspects and I still wanted the live band to be the recording band with the perfect set up being Robin and Frank. Robin was aware that Frank could be resigning and I wasn’t sure if he would come on board if Frank left. I was facing a huge challenge to replace him. I discussed the situation with Robin and he understood the dilemma I was in. He agreed with all the benefits of writing unit becoming touring unit to recording band and volunteered to join us. I admit to an overwhelming sense of relief when he told me he was in.DSC_7007

Robin has brought a lot to the table in the writing sessions he’s been involved with so far and has fitted in well with Foss, Steve and I, as I knew he would. I find it slightly ironic that after all these years when the chance of working together again was becoming a reality that Frank would choose this time to resign. The last time it nearly happened was when Frank resigned during the “Sunsets” project after a previous excruciatingly long outing with “Yin and Yang”, Robin of course joining the band mid Sunsets tour.  It would have been fantastic having them both together again but if anyone is going to fill in for Frank then Robin would always be my perfect choice and I am lucky he has elected to come on board and sees the huge potential of this project. He will prove to be a major asset I am sure.

Frank Usher

Frank Usher

In some ways I am glad it’s going to be a 5 piece band as I have come to enjoy that format in the last year and the intended set up of this album was originally meant to be for a single guitarist with the prospect of acoustic touring in the Fishheads format a definite option in the future. Robin is more than capable of handling what is required and more.

As much as I am disappointed that Frank is not going to be involved with the “Feast” album I can only but respect his position and understand his reasoning. He does have a lot of other commitments on his own plate just now and I am sure that the break from us will do him the power of good too! 🙂 I am genuinely sad to see him go, wish him all the sincere best for the future and I’m looking forward to hearing this elusive solo album and to the extra bottle of red wine in the dressing room! 🙂 We have known each other for over 30 years and remain best of friends who will reconvene on another stage somewhere in the future. I’m just sorry he won’t be joining me this time around.

It’s been a jolt and something I would have preferred not to have had to dealt with at this juncture in the album or career process but it has not meant any rescheduling as Frank’s resignation at this moment in time doesn’t substantially affect things. He was not involved with the fundamental writing and the album is in an advanced state now since Robin became involved with the songs. March and April are assigned to finishing the 12 tracks and preparing them for production rehearsals so there’s no serious re jigging required. I’m excited about having Robin involved again and especially after hearing his contributions so far. If there is a down side then it is that Robin will have to learn a live set from scratch (which he is more than capable of doing!) but on the upside it means I do have an excuse for not playing “Grendel” as Frank will be the only guitarist from my solo years that knows it ! 🙂

Mr and Mrs Usher

Mr and Mrs Usher

All said and done I’ll miss Frankie and everything that comes with the package! 🙂 I love him dearly and always will, he is a big part of what I am. The wheel keeps spinning! Table for 5 please!